Hit the trail! Leave the urban jungle behind with these scenic hikes just a short distance from major urban centers.
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Many states lay claim to Bear Mountain, but its summit actually lies in Connecticut – the Undermountain Trail, near Salisbury, meets the Appalachian Trail to challenge hikers to the top. For more unspoiled hikes, the Naugatuck State Forest offers more undeveloped trails that will test experienced hikers – definitely not for the novice! Near Meriden, the southern stretch of the Metacomet Trail provides breathtaking views of the valley below from both East Peak and West Peak in the Hanging Hills.
On the Cape Henlopen Loop of the American Discovery Trail, hikers can experience WWII history as well as the natural beauty of the seashore. Inland a bit further and south of Newark, DE is the Swamp Forest Trail at Lums Pond State Park, which features more than two dozen footbridges and numerous species of birds and waterfowl in its 6.5 miles of trails. North of Wilmington, at the Brandywine Creek State Park there are more than a dozen trails to suit nearly any level of hiker.
Close to Millinocket, at the heart of the vast Baxter State Park, lies the highest mountain in Maine and end of the Appalachian Trail: Mount Katahdin. Known as “Maine’s Yellowstone”, the park offers scores of other trails and mountains to climb as well. In the Northeast, near Presque Isle, you can climb a twin peaked volcano at Aroostook State Park, on the shore of Echo Lake. Near scenic Bar Harbor is Acadia National Park, which boasts more than 120 miles of trails. From easy walks along sandy beaches to strenuous hikes up steep ascents, Acadia has it. Further south – near Portland, you’ll find Bradbury Mountain State Park, which has nearly 1,000 acres to discover as well as panoramic views from the summit of Bradbury Mountain.
Outside Chincoteague, you might catch a glimpse of the wild ponies that make their home at the Assateague Island National State Park. There are more than 19 miles of seashore for you to explore. Garrett County is home to 90 mountain summits and peaks, 76 of which are close to the town of Barton. The highest in Garrett – and in Maryland – is Backbone Mountain, on the cusp of Savage River State Park. Outside Frederick, you can begin your hike of the 26 plus miles of the diverse Catoctin Trail through both the Gambrill and Cunningham Falls State Parks.
In the northwest corner of Massachusetts, by the town of Adams, is where you’ll find the state’s highest peak – Mount Greylock. The hike to the summit will reward you with fabulous views as well as the Massachusetts Veterans War Memorial. Just south of Boston, there is the Blue Hills Reservation which includes 125 miles of trails and 22 hills in the chain, the highest of which is Great Blue Hill. For those looking for an oceanside retreat, check out the Cape Cod National Seashore. Walk along the more than 40 miles of sandy beach, explore lighthouses and walk the nature trails on the 43,000 acre National Park.
Northwest of the charming town of North Conway stands Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeastern United States. Be sure to bring the right gear – the 6,288 foot peak is famous for unpredictable weather. On a clear day, it is said you can see four U.S. States, as well as part of Canada. This is but one of the peaks of White Mountain National Park, which sprawls over one quarter of the state of New Hampshire. There are 1,200 miles of trails with something for everyone. For a somewhat mellower hike, try Monadnock State Park, located west of Manchester in the southwest. The towns of Newbury or Goshen provide easy access to the Mount Sunapee State Park. Trails from the base to the summit are three miles and Mount Sunapee is a link in two long-distance trails as well.
South of Toms River, you’ll find the Forked River Mountains, rich in history and nestled amidst the enormous 20,000 acre New Jersey Pine Barrens. For a long range hike, you may consider the Batona Trail (BAck TO NAture), which runs for nearly 50 miles from the town of Ong’s Hat, south through both Lebanon and Wharton State Forests, before ending at Bass River State Forest. You can head to western New Jersey to climb Mount Tammany in the Kittatinny Mountains for majestic views of the Delaware River and Water Gap. If you’re a bird watcher, you can’t miss the picturesque trails around the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge.
Near the aptly named Lake Placid, in the massive Adirondack Park Preserve, which encompasses an astounding 6.2 million acres, you will find 46 incredible “high peaks” to scale – the highest of which are Mount Marcy and Algonquin Peak. The Finger Lakes trail stretches for 562 breathtaking miles – from Allegany National Forest in the western part of the state, along the southern part of the dazzling Finger Lakes and over through the Catskill Mountains. In the heart of the Catskill State Park rests Slide Mountain. From its peak, you can see the peaks of the other 33 “high peaks” of the Catskills. In the 6,500 acre Mohonk Preserve – just west of the charming town of New Paltz – you’ll find trails and hikes from easy to strenuous, but all peaceful and stunningly beautiful.
Situated in central Pennsylvania, World’s End State Park has more than 20 miles of trails and a link to the Loyalsock Trail, which follows the Loyalsock Creek for about 60 robust miles. West of Erie, within the Allegheny National Forest, you’ll be able to hike along the more than 100 miles of trails, deep in hundreds of thousands of unspoiled woods. Further east, hike along the Glen Onoko Falls in Lehigh Gorge State Park to glimpse many waterfalls and steep gorges, near the delightful town of Jim Thorpe. Northwest of Philadelphia, French Creek State Park offers 40 miles of forested trails surrounded by the serene farmland of the southeast part of the state.
There are more than 70 miles along the North South Trail in western Rhode Island, which runs the whole length of the state through historic villages and Native American sites. Southwest of Providence, there are 14,000 acres of dense woods to explore at the Arcadia Management Area. To get away from it all, the greenways of Block Island, a charming island off the coast of Rhode Island, provide 25 miles of scenic views along the island’s bluffs, beaches and meadows. To truly appreciate an area steeped in its decadent past, hike along the magnificent cliff walk in Newport.
The Green Mountain National Forest covers two thirds of the state of Vermont. Its most famous trail is called “The Long Trail” – an accurate name, as it runs 270 miles – all the way to Canada! East of Burlington, you can conquer the rocky Mount Mansfield peak – the highest in the “Green Mountain State.” For a “hauntingly” beautiful mountaintop experience, don’t miss the 22 miles of trails on Glastenbury Mountain, northeast of Bennington and cloaked in rumor and folklore. South of White River Junction, you can access the Weathersfield Trail, which leads to the peaks of Mt. Ascutney, by the 84-foot Crystal Cascade Falls and other dramatic views.
The Shenandoah National Park features more than 500 miles of trails of all levels, more than 100 of which are part of the Appalachian Trail. North of Roanoke, you can start your 3.5 mile trek to the top of Catawba Mountain and McAfee Knob, with its postcard-worthy panoramic views. From the Grayson Highlands State Park, south of Marion, you can make your ascent of the expansive and diverse Mount Rogers, the highest peak in Virginia. A short distance west of Washington, D.C. are the Bull Run Mountains, which are the perfect city getaway for hikers at every level!